This is the type of book that you make time for. I found myself getting up a bit earlier every morning just so I could get a chapter in before I went to work and I would spend every minute of my time thinking about Fielding Bliss and Sal. In fact, I still think about this book often and I think I will continue thinking about it for a while.
The story follows an 80-year-old Fielding Bliss telling us the story of the unforgettable summer of 1984 where a heatwave scorched the town of breathed. This was also the summer than the devil was invited to the town by his father, Autopsy Bliss, and came… but in the form of a 13-year-old black orphan named Sal.
The storyline really intrigued me because it was so unique, and I knew this book could either go one way or the other and thankfully, it went the right way. I will start off by saying that this book is not a happy one. There is no happy ending. And while there is plenty of sunshine (enough to make the townspeople lose their minds) and roses involved, nothing about the summer of 1984 ends well. I didn’t know what I expected when I started reading this book, but I am the type of person who likes a happy ending and when there wasn’t one I felt the need to sit alone in a dark room for a while, feeling absolutely devastated and completely attached to Sal in a way I have ever felt attached to a character before. This book definitely crushed my soul and left you with a lot to think about. While the tragic events that happen in the book are not Sal’s fault, it does make you wonder if those events would’ve happened if Sal didn’t come to Breathed. It makes you wonder how the devil can be so compassionate and understanding, and how people who claim to be followers of God can be so cruel and heartless. It makes you see that there is a little bit of the devil in all of mankind.
Maybe it was the weird names (I mean, who is called Autopsy, really?) but it felt like this book was set in some parallel universe that’s almost completely identical to our own, but somehow slightly skewed, like we’re looked at it through one of those funhouse mirrors. Even the lyrical, metaphorical writing style made this book some other-worldly. In some ways, it felt like I was reading the bible, which I think is incredibly clever. This really added to the plot and really fitted with the overall feeling over the book and was partly the reason why I loved it so much.
This isn’t exactly a downside to the book, more a little side note, but this isn’t the type of book that I can binge read because everything about it is quite heavy. The plot and the writing style combined is something I wanted to take my time to read, and often I needed some time to recover from some of the horrific events that take place in this book.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Yes, it completely breaks your heart, but it also is the type of book that changes you. And for that reason, it has earned its spot on one of my all-time favourite books list.